Volume 94, Issue 35

Wednesday, November 1, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Cold turkey never works

Editorial Cartoon

Cold turkey never works

The future of Canada's cultural environment may be in danger, thanks to a move on the part of the federal government to force tobacco companies to withdraw their sponsorship from all cultural or sporting events.

As it stands now, a number of regular events across Canada receive large amounts of funding from the tobacco industry in exchange for a corporate name and logo being attached to events like the duMaurier International Jazz Festival or Players' sponsorship of Formula-1 car racing. Tobacco companies have played a huge role in supporting these kinds of endeavours and ensuring that they not only survive each year, but thrive with both social and economic activity.

But what will happen if these sponsorships are lost?

The government's reasoning behind its decision to phase out tobacco sponsorship arguably prevents the further proliferation of smoking among Canadian citizens.

However, the effect of this move may have stronger repercussions than simply keeping youths from starting smoking. If these festivals and events are unable to obtain new sponsors, their collective future will be in serious jeopardy.

The federal government seems to believe that once the tobacco companies are removed from their current role, the organizers of these sporting events and cultural festivals will be able to find new funding from other corporate entities. What remains to be seen, is who exactly is going to step up to the plate.

There simply aren't that many companies in Canada that possess either the desire or the ability to back these kinds of events. Corporations like Labatt and Molson's have already got their hands full with hockey, baseball mainstream concert tours. Who does that leave?

Without being willing to pick up the slack, the government is essentially hanging these groups out to dry. It raises the question of what's more important; maintaining the social fabric of our society by protecting the arts, or cutting down on the publicity of smoking?

This also sends a strange message to those with philanthropic interest. We encourage private industry to give something back to the people, stressing that big business owes it to the nation, but then we decide that we don't like the company, so we won't take their money?

It doesn't quite add up.

The problem with this step is that rather than hurt the tobacco industry and cut down on the number of smokers out there, it will only hurt those who enjoy the kinds of events in which these corporations are involved. If the elimination of smoking was a real concern, then perhaps a better solution would be to raise the price of cigarettes or ban them altogether.

Permanently damaging those special things that help make Canada a culturally vibrant country doesn't seem like the answer.

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